GARDENING: Grass is greener after a storm – Odessa American

Posted: August 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Floyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at

Floyd is an Agri-Life Extension agent for Ector and Midland counties. To learn more, call the Ector County Extension office at 432-498-4072, or the Midland County Extension office at 432-686-4700, or email

Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2017 3:00 am

GARDENING: Grass is greener after a storm By Jeff Floyd Odessa American

What is it about thunderstorms that make the green in plants pop? The answer is nitrogen. Only a minuscule fraction of soil is made up of nitrogen while the atmosphere contains a whopping seventy-eight percent of the stuff.

Unfortunately, like the mythological Tantalus whose eternal punishment included standing in a pool of water from which he couldnt sip, plants have absolutely no access to atmospheric nitrogen; at least not in its standard dinitrogen form.

Plants only take up ionic forms of nitrogen from the soil. Plants are autotrophs, meaning they feed themselves. One way they do this is by using special cellular machines to connect nitrogen ions with other elements inside the plant body, building life-giving proteins. Nearly all metabolic processes carried out by plants require nitrogen rich proteins. Rain carries nitrogen compounds. However, energy is required to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a structure that plants can take advantage of.

Theres enough energy in a typical lightning bolt to keep your smartphone glowing for nearly seven-hundred years. Lightening is essentially static electricity with just a tad more power than a freshly laundered faux cashmere blouse. Lightening breaks up atmospheric nitrogen allowing it to hitch a ride back to earth within raindrops. Once in the soil, plants can snatch up dissolved nitrogen pretty quickly.

So its not your imagination; your lawn really is greener after a thunderstorm. However, soil microbes use nitrogen too. Depending on conditions, microbes convert nitrogen into the atmospheric gas from whence it came. This is part of the reason plants return to their normal appearance not long after things dry up.

You cant see it, smell it or taste nitrogen, but you can learn more about how plants use it by calling the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office at 498-4071 or email

Posted in Gardening on Sunday, August 6, 2017 3:00 am. | Tags: Texas A&m Agrilife Extension Office, Jeff Floyd, Pecans, Pruning, Prune, Soft Landscape Materials, Landscape, Gardening, Gardener, Food, Integra, Repeat Applications, West Texas

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GARDENING: Grass is greener after a storm - Odessa American

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